VINE CUTTINGS

News and Notes from the World of Wine



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THEY SAID IT AT THE HOSPICE DU RHONE

Billed as the world's biggest celebration of classic Rhône varietals, the 10th annual Hospice du Rhône held in late May, in Paso Robles, attracted winemakers from around the world. The three-day hoedown means fans of these varietals can taste and see what's going on at wineries from the Rhône River Valley to California, and from Stellenbosch to the Eden Valley. The event always features plenty of Cabernet bashing—here's a sampling of the comments.

"It's 9 a.m. and time to smell the Carignan. Wake up!"—Wine importer Eric Solomon, moderating an early-morning panel on the wines of the Priorat region of Spain.

"I don't even consider Cabernet a noble variety."—Ehren Jordan, winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars.

"It's a love-hate relationship, sort of like people that go to USC bash UCLA."—Jim Knight, wine buyer for The Wine House of West L.A., on Cabernet-bashing by Syrah freaks.

"Like Ehren Jordan, we don't actually finish many bottles of Bordeaux." —Solomon.

"Hospice du Rhône is all about really weird stuff that no one's ever heard of. But darn it, they should."—John Alban, Central Coast vintner and HdR cofounder.

"By the time we leave here today, no one will complain that 'Viognier' is hard to pronounce."—Alban, on a seminar featuring the Spanish varietals Picpoul and Cariñena, made by wineries like Conreria d'Scala Dei and Mas Doix.

"The wine would be better if the yield was lower."—A tongue-in-cheek Manfred Krankl, owner of Sine Qua Non winery, on reports that old-vine Grenache yields a miserly one bunch of grapes per vine.

"My vines are very old. Like five years."—Wild and crazy Condrieu winemaker Francois Villard on the old-vine craze in America.

"When the wife is a good cook, the husband is a good winemaker."—Gallic wisdom from Hermitage winemaking guru Michel Chapoutier.

"High acidity is like cheap insurance. You prefer to have it to protect longevity, but you lose flavor."—Chapoutier.

"My personal experience is, high acidity is not cheap insurance, because you tend to lose five points from the critics on your scores. So it's very expensive insurance."—Alban, who, by the way, never sends his wines to critics for review.

"I'm concerned that too many [California] people seem to be looking at the typical [Aussie] Shiraz, and imitating the wine in terms of extraction and ripeness, rather than going for the elegance and the complexity."—Ridge winemaker Paul Draper, savoring one of his favorite Syrahs, Henschke's Hill of Grace.

"I certainly hope Syrah replaces Merlot as far as interest goes. But, uhh, I hope it doesn't replace Merlot in the sense that Merlot has kind of died now."—Christopher Keller, owner of L.A.-based Paige 23 Wines, who makes a killer Syrah.

"This is the best that Paso can produce, and it's priced accordingly."—So there, from Justin Strider Smith, of Saxum Wines, whose $50 Paso Robles Syrah may be the most expensive in the appellation.

—Steve Heimoff

Destinations
Beyond the Big Apple

Tri-staters, take heed: The summer may be half over, but that doesn't mean you have to ride out your quarter share in the Hamptons or on Fire Island. Whether it's water or wine you seek, we've found plenty of spots to keep your pre-Labor Day weekends packed.

If you're headed out of the city on I-95 north, your first must-stop spot is Le Wine Shop in Larchmont. Opened in March 2002 by three transplanted Frenchmen, Jean Pierre Lacor, Etienne Touzot and Emmanuel Dupuy d'Angeac, Le Wine Shop's stock is 95 percent French, and includes everything from hard-to-find bottlings to $15 bargains. Tastings every Saturday and their auspicious location next to what Emmanuel describes as the area's best French cheese shop should be inducements enough to get you there. (1934 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont, NY. Tel.: 914/833-9666)

An hour or so farther on I-95 north, take I-395 east to Mohegan Sun. This summer's Wild Wednesdays begin July 10 and include fireworks, music and cook-offs that will benefit the New York City Fire Department. Better yet, stay for an entire weekend—you'll need at least that much time to make a dent in the property's 40-plus restaurants, including Todd English's Tuscany, which offers rustic but upscale Italian bites such as tenderloin of beef over panzanella salad ($24.50), and its own Steele "Todd English Selection" Zinfandel. At the Rockwell-designed restaurant, Rain, Executive Chef Michael Luboff and Chef de Cuisine Rolando Robledo's Maine diver scallops with Meyer lemon risotto ($36) and rabbit with applewood smoked bacon, lentilles and chanterelles ($14) are spectacular. The casino's 34-story luxury hotel just opened in April, too—now you can take a siesta upstairs after indulging all day. (One Mohegan Sun Boulevard, Uncasville, CT. Tel.: 888/ 777-7922; rooms from $175.)

The Mirror Lake Inn may be a bit of a trek from Manhattan (it's five hours away for those of us who mind the speed limit), but once you reach this Adirondack hideaway, you'll never want to leave. Their Saranac Suites (bilevel rooms complete with spiral staircase, a king-sized loft bed and a bedside jacuzzi) are luxurious, and all have balconies with stunning views of Mirror Lake. Afternoon tea, a posh on-site salon and spa, and the award-winning Averil Conwell Dining Room await you downstairs—c'mon, you've got to leave that fabulous room sometime. Ask them about their intimate, twice-yearly wine tasting weekend packages, too. (5 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, NY. Rooms from $150; Saranac Suites from $375. Tel.: 518/523-2544)

In some ways, the Homestead Inn feels like a home away from home—it's tucked away in the residential Belle Haven section of Greenwich, Connecticut, and has only 19 guest chambers. But that's where "homey" ends and lap of luxury begins: I don't know about you, but I don't have Frette linens and DUX beds in my digs! Co-owner Theresa Henkelmann designed the one-of-a-kind guest rooms herself; her Alsatian-born husband, Thomas, is the chef at the Inn's four-star restaurant that bears his name. Once you try chef's exquisite Black Truffle Royal with Lobster Bisque and wild Scottish partridge, you'll be making that 45-minutes-from-Midtown trip on weeknights, too. (420 Field Point Road, Greenwich, CT. Tel.: 203/869-7500. Rooms from $250; degustation menu, $105.)

—Daryna McKeand

 

Peanuts in Wine Country
Museum Dedicated to Schulz's Memory Opens This Month

If you'll be in or near the Russian River Valley this summer and are searching for some family-oriented activity, the opening of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center might be just the departure you're looking for. Fans of comic strips, cartoons—and anybody who paid attention to popular culture over the past few decades—will certainly recognize the work of the late Charles Schulz and the colorful characters of his Peanuts comic strip. Due to open August 17 in Santa Rosa, the museum commemorates the winsome humor of such famous Peanuts characters as Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Affectionately known as "Sparky," Schulz passed away in February 2000, but the new museum promises to keep his legacy alive.

His widow, Jeannie Schulz, says, "At first, he did not see the need for a museum, because he was not one who wanted a fuss made about him. However, he later warmed to the idea and was proud that others thought it was important." He even was involved in the preliminary plans for the museum. It will be a 27,384-square-foot structure located across the street from Schulz's old studio and the ice arena where he spent much of his time. Jeannie Schulz also says that it was important to build the museum in Santa Rosa, because that is where her husband spent most of his time: "Visitors will not only come to look at his drawings, but also be in his presence."

The museum's curators hope to feature a 7,000-pound morphing Snoopy sculpture, two galleries with permanent and changing exhibitions, a recreation of Schulz's own studio, outdoor gardens and exhibits, a 100-seat auditorium and a research library.
For more information, visit www.charlesmschulzmusuem.org.

—Sean Weiner

A Chef Who Doesn't Cook?
Charlie Trotter and Larry Stone Laud Roxanne Klein's Raw Cuisine

What wines pair best with raw coconut pad thai and almond chile sauce or green cauliflower "couscous"? Renowned Chicago restaurateur Charlie Trotter and San Francisco master sommelier Larry Stone believe the possiblities are legion. The two wine and food gurus have teamed up with a revolutionary Bay-area chef named Roxanne Klein. Her new vegetarian restaurant, Roxanne's, has received rave reviews since opening early this year. The three partners have written a new cookbook called Raw, to be published in early 2003.

Roxanne's, located in the Marin County town of Larkspur, is a far cry from other high-end vegetarian establishments such as Greens in San Francisco. A visitor to the kitchen will immediately be struck by the fact that it contains no stoves. "My husband, Michael, and I began eating raw food about five years ago out of simple curiosity," said Klein, 38. Prior to that, they were already vegetarians and Roxanne had been in the restaurant business for nearly a decade. Michael, 46, has long been a wine collector. Fortunately, the Kleins consider wine a raw food. They enlisted Stone to put together Roxanne's exceptional wine list.

On a mission to convert doubting Thomases, Trotter, Klein and Stone recently hosted a raw meal for 80 curious food and wine professionals at the annual meeting of International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in San Diego. The nine-course meal featured a dazzling array of deliciously inventive dishes, some created by Klein and some created by Trotter, all paired with such classic wines as Jean-Louis Chave's 1996 Hermitage Blanc, Henschke's 2000 Queen's Hill Lenswood Riesling and Lalou Bize-Leroy's 1997 Auxey-Duresses. Red wines were also in evidence, most notably a silky, ripe L'Ermita 1997 Priorat from Alvaro Palacios.

"Texture is paramount," Stone said, describing the relationship between the food and wine. The rich, lush Riesling happily embraced crisp, fiery raw mustard greens, while the sleek, steely white Burgundy supported the spicy nuances in the noodle-like coconut pad thai.

But there were no noodles, of course, because noodles need to be cooked. The theory is that temperatures above 118°F break down essential food enzymes. The Kleins profess to have more energy and better health than ever before, because their bodies don't use as much energy to digest their food.

"Eating raw is not an alternative cuisine," Klein explains. "It's just a way to explore new intensities of flavor." Indeed, this intensity is apparent upon entering the restaurant, which smells like a wonderfully fertile summer garden. Roxanne's was not designed as a vegetarian haven, but rather as a temple for new gastronomy—one that dares to be truly different.

"Every now and then a chef comes along and does something so provocative that they make other chefs sit up and take notice," says Trotter. After meeting Klein, he ate "raw" for a month and found it to be quite satisfying. "But I can't eat this way regularly, because I need to taste everything that leaves my kitchen." In fact both Trotter and Stone admit that they plan to remain omnivores—cooking omnivores—indefinitely.

The wait time for a reservation at Roxanne's is now a month long. Raw, Trotter's and Klein's new cookbook, will soon bring this tasty fare (and Stone's wine pairing theories) to dinner tables across America.
Roxanne's, 320 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, CA. Tel: 415/924-5004.

—Jeff Morgan

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